| January/February 1988

The big engine

Crack! Crack! Crack! The big engine smashed the rails like paper

Reprinted from The Youth's Companion, September 16, 1926. Submitted by Wayne D. Jacobs, 220 N. Water St., Pinconning, MI 48650

There is a certain part of Indiana where the soil is so productive and the climate conditions so favorable that it bears the name of 'Sugarland.' Indeed, it has borne this name so long that many people living there and in the surrounding country know none other for it. It is bounded on one side by a county line, on another by a town, on another by a river, and on the fourth by a state road.

Threshing men always made an effort to clean up neighboring 'sets' as quickly as possible and get into that section, because the wheat yielded more, and because the 'sets' a set is the amount of wheat threshed on one farm were large and close together, which reduced to a minimum the amount of 'pulling' from one farm to another. Moreover, the roads were better. In fact any threshing man could give a large number of reasons why threshing was most profitable there.

These very advantages were the cause of much friction among threshing men and of dissatisfaction among the farmers. Sometimes there were eight or ten different 'rigs' in the community a condition that was objectionable because it prevented the farmers from helping one another. Moreover, the threshing men always rushed the work in order to get as much of the 'picking' as possible, and consequently much of the valuable grain was 'blown over' into the straw pile. Many straw stacks became green with sprouted wheat after a few rains.

When they had endured these conditions for some time, the farmers finally found them so disagreeable that they met to decide upon a remedy. The result was that every man who owned or controlled a threshing rig, and who intended making Sugarland his goal, received a letter.

Clem Ward sat on the doorstep of his home, frowning over a letter the mail carrier had just left. He was a clean cut young fellow of twenty, working on his father's farm during the summer to pay his expenses during the winter in an agricultural college.